The Judaism prior to the destruction of the temple in 70 CE and that was the Judaism known to those responsible for the birth of Christianity was not the rabbinic Judaism that emerged in ensuing centuries. In recent years scholars Hurtado and Bauckham have attempted to defend the historical roots of contemporary Christian orthodoxy in relation to monotheism by focusing on evidence that suggests Second Temple Judaism (i.e. the Judaism prior to 70 CE) did not know of cultic worship of any figure other than The One God. Other scholars have criticized Hurtado and Bauckham for being too restricted in their selection of the evidence and for being too pedantically narrow in their question framing. One of these critics, and the latest one whose work has been added to my “to read” shelf, is Crispin Fletcher-Jones. His 2015 work is Jesus Monotheism: Volume 1. Christological Origins: the Emerging Consensus and Beyond.
While it is too early for me to outline his arguments in this post, both those contrary to Bauckham’s and Hurtado’s theses and his own interpretations and broader implications for our understanding of Second Temple Judaism, I can at least for now quote the critical section of a Latin manuscript of the Life of Adam and Eve. (I’ll save the reasons for dating this text to the pre-70 CE era and other discussions of the various language manuscript lines till later.)
What is fascinating in this text is the reason God commands all the angels to worship Adam at the time of his creation — that is, before his “Fall”. The text throws us the first time we read it if we have always assumed that the Jews had as strict and narrow a conception of monotheism as we do and as we believe they have had ever since Moses.
The account of the command to worship Adam (Fletcher-Louis points out this analogy) reads remarkably like the challenge presented to Daniel and his friends by Nebuchadnezzar:
King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold . . .
Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
. . .
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar . . . we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3, NIV)
Setting up an image and commanding worship at its feet is a no-no — we all know that’s the rule of the God of the Bible. But think a moment about the creation of Adam who was made “in the image and likeness” of God.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness. . . “ (Gen 1:26)
Adam is the image made by God. God made him in “his” image and in “his” likeness. The angels were commanded to worship the image of God.
Worship of Adam did not imply that Adam was a god himself. Like all or most pagan images that were representatives of the deity Adam was worshiped by most angels as the way to worship God. To stand up like Shadrach, Meshach and Adednego in this instance was to become the enemy of God, Satan.
Here is the key section from the Life of Adam and Eve (Fletcher-Louis rejects the title “Apocalypse of Moses by which it is more commonly known):
xii 1 And with a heavy sigh, the devil spake: ‘O Adam! all my hostility, envy, and sorrow is for thee, since it is for thee that I have been expelled from my glory, which I possessed in the heavens
2 in the midst of the angels and for thee was I cast out in the earth.’ Adam answered, ‘What dost
3 thou tell me? What have I done to thee or what is my fault against thee? Seeing that thou hast received no harm or injury from us, why dost thou pursue us?’
xiii 1 The devil replied, ‘Adam, what dost thou tell me? It is for thy sake that I have been hurled
2 from that place. When thou wast formed. I was hurled out of the presence of God and banished from the company of the angels. When God blew into thee the breath of life and thy face and likeness was made in the image of God, Michael also brought thee and made (us) worship thee in the sight of God; and God the Lord spake: Here is Adam. I have made thee in our image and likeness.‘
xiv 1 And Michael went out and called all the angels saying:
‘Worship the image of God as the Lord God hath commanded.‘
And Michael himself worshipped first; then he called me and said: ‘Worship the image of God
3 the Lord.’ And I answered, ‘I have no (need) to worship Adam.’ And since Michael kept urging me to worship, I said to him, ‘Why dost thou urge me? I will not worship an inferior and younger being (than I). I am his senior in the Creation, before he was made was I already made. It is his duty to worship me.’
xv 1,2 When the angels, who were under me, heard this, they refused to worship him. And Michael saith, ‘Worship the image of God, but if thou wilt not worship him, the Lord God will be wrath
3 with thee.’ And I said, ‘If He be wrath with me, I will set my seat above the stars of heaven and will be like the Highest.’
xvi 1 And God the Lord was wrath with me and banished me and my angels from our glory; and on
2 thy account were we expelled from our abodes into this world and hurled on the earth.
There are implications for Christology here — as you would expect from the title of the book. But again that’s for another post, too.
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